Monday, November 29, 2010

Giving Thanks

I love Thanksgiving. It is by far my favorite holiday.
Having lived a number of years in a low income housing project gave me a good sense of what poverty feels like. Having my home and almost all my possession taken from me gave me a good idea of impermanence. Having the love of my life senselessly ripped from me gave me a hard lesson in loneliness. And so I am acutely aware of how blessed I am now. I live an incredibly abundant life filled with the love of family and friends. I have a deep and spiritual appreciation for the good things in my life. I take none of it for granted. I love giving thanks.

And then occasionally I accept the thanks of others -

First, we received this in the mail.

Included was a thank you card from Beanie’s college friends who had recently spent a weekend with us. It said “thank you for letting us crash at your house, eat all of your food, for doing our laundry and for giving us Beanie. We love her and you.”   The basket is filled with cookies and brownies.

On Thanksgiving, Martha’s nephew gave us several gift cards to our favorite restaurant to thank us for some help we gave him years ago. He is finally on his feet.

Oh yes, if you want to thank me for something - says it with food.

And then yesterday I drove Beanie back to college. We lugged up all her now clean clothes she had brought home for me to wash. And all the groceries we bought because, you know, that $12,000 room and board fee doesn’t seem to provide enough food for her to eat. We said our final goodbyes and when I returned to the car I found this on the seat:

Yep, that did me in.

I love Thanksgiving. And receiving thanks isn’t too bad either.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Slave for a Day

Tomorrow is Martha’s birthday. She always makes a list of gifts she wants. But the traditional gift is that I am her slave for the day. This usually entails doing her chores - make the coffee, unload the dishwasher, iron her clothes, vacuum the house, clean the litter box, come up with dinner,  and anything else she wants me to do. For everything she does to keep the house running all year, it seems like a small gift to give in return. At least when her birthday is on a weekday. When it falls on a weekend, it is a bitch. When it falls on Thanksgiving, slave day gets postponed to whenever she wants it.

At the stroke of midnight she will wake me up to start her day with birthday wishes and a little loving. Hopefully, she will let me sleep for a few hours before I get up and make her breakfast, pack her lunch for work, and get to some of the chores. As soon as she gets out of work we are driving down to pick up Beanie at college, who will be coming home for Thanksgiving break. I made reservations at an historic tavern located on the way back. And that will be her favorite gift - the whole family together for dinner. When we get home, she will open her gifts and have more requests that will keep me up long after my normal bedtime.

On Wednesday I will recuperate. On Thursday I will very thankful birthdays come only once a year.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

PTSD poem

Last night I curled up
in a ball and learned
for the first time
what PTSD really is

A disease that rots a person
from the inside -
tears their wounds open
like an amputated limb

Last night I learned
that 8 years can feel
like only 8 seconds
and what time machines do:

They transport you back
to the moment your brain
stopped working and
your heart stopped beating


Last night I learned
about war and tried
to remember what
peace felt like

The profundity of
these lessons seep
into my dreams
and I am rattled

For only by remembering
the horrible
the terrible
the despicable
can we truly forget

This poem was given to me yesterday.
Unfortunately there was no title and or author’s name attached.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Dorm Life

My youngest daughter Peachie was selected to play in a regional field hockey all-star game on Sunday. And naturally Beanie, her older sister, wanted to come home to see it. So I went on-line and sent her a train ticket. Then her college best friend wanted to come too. One more train ticket. They came home Friday night. Then Saturday a couple of their friends called to say they were lonely and could they come too? Another call to Amtrak.

We live in a small, one bathroom house. By Saturday afternoon the entre living room was littered with laptops and books, the bathroom was a web of hair dryers and curling irons all hanging from light fixtures and towel bars, Beanie’s bedroom was an explosion of duffle bags and clothing and everywhere there was a phone/ipod/computer charging.

They spent a good deal of time on Saturday doing their school work. One was writing a paper on comparative genocide in the 20th century, one was doing a business and marketing plan for a local business, and Beanie was writing a paper on some pharmaceutical study about kids on the autism spectrum. And they did this all with the TV on, IPods in their ears, and answering texts on their phones. I was impressed.

Saturday evening Martha made a huge roast beef/yorkshire pudding/mashed potatoes/beans/apple pie dinner. They were like raptors. Every dish finished down to the last smidgeon of gravy. Not a single leftover for me to have later. *sigh*

And the conversation . . . the conversation centered around who got trashed last weekend, how many Oreos they could eat during one episode of Grey’s Anatomy, reminding each other to take their birth control, the lack of hot guys on campus, who was sleeping with who, and just how disgusting is the smell of Spaghettios? Were these the same scholarly girls I had just seen doing their school work?

Saturday night they were all up late, chatting away. I had gone to bed when Martha came in and asked if I wanted to fool around. But the girls were only 4 inches away on the other side of the wall. “Listen to them” Martha said, “they’ll never hear us. I’m going to tie a sock on the door”. “What? Are you crazy?” “No, she laughed, that way they’ll know not to disturb us.” And she did it. Later that night I heard one of them get up, obvious see the sock, and start to laugh. Could I be any more embarrassed?

On Sunday morning we needed to be out of the house by 10 am to get to the game. I went to get bagels and then came home to shower. But every time I tried, someone was in the bathroom. The door was never closed, but I felt odd sharing the bathroom with someone who was not family or pretty close to it. Finally I gave up and just got in the shower while someone was straightening her hair and someone else doing their makeup. No one seemed to notice.

They were all very sweet at the game. Cheered for Peachie loudly and appropriately and then we went out to eat (because there was literally no food left in the house) afterward to celebrate. And finally, Martha piled them all into her car and drove them back to school. Ahhhh. Sweet, sweet silence.

Dorm life. It is kind of fun to revisit. But I wouldn’t want to live there.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Road to Shalom

Monday I went to the knee doctor. The MRI shows a torn meniscus and other damage that will require surgery to relieve the pain. But the damage was not done when I awkwardly slipped. No, the doctor tells me the knee is wrecked because I walk unevenly on my left foot. The foot that was smashed on that day of violence.

This news has left me somewhat depressed. I had made a commitment this year to face down my demons and finally address those emotional issues that continue to sabotage my well being. But now I realize that it is the physical issues that are going to win. No matter what I do, I will never, ever be rid of this. Every step I take reminds me of that.

I went from the orthopedist to my therapist. I told her I was quitting. This immersion therapy has taken way too big a toll on me. Yes, I now understand why a laundromat spooks me and I have filled in some gaps of time I couldn’t remember before. But what I have remembered is not pretty. I don’t know why it is considered a good idea to rehash and relive the most physically and emotionally painful event of my life. So now my nightmares have more detail. What is the point of that?

Last week while helping a friend clean out her attic, we found some old photos from that time. A photograph of me standing outside a house I moved into, my foot in a cast, leaning on a cane, still battered and bruised. Empty.  I do not remember much from this time. But what really struck me is that I do not recognize myself in this picture. I am a stranger. It is a little frightening.

The other night I was watching the news with Peachie. A story about a man accused or convicted of rape - I don’t know. (I can still use those little therapy tricks to put myself on a beach somewhere when I feel the anxiety rising) All I heard was Peachie say “that woman will never be the same again.”

That is the theme that has haunted me all week. I understand that I will never be the same. Physical changes. Emotional changes. Events change people. We all evolve. But I don’t yet understand who I am supposed to be now. I have one foot stuck in the past (literally and figuratively) and one in the present.

Overriding it all is trying to process the unexpected and senseless death of a friend. And all I can think about is how precarious life is. And how I really need to get myself back to the present. Full time. Whenever we would discuss tough decisions or future plans, my friend’s philosophy was always “do what brings you peace.”

So that is now what I am trying to discern. What will bring me peace? I am not sure yet. Will I be okay if I never see Paris? Can I find peace in the present without resolving the guilt and pain of the past? I don’t know. But I do know I can’t stay where I am now.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Posts I Didn't Write

I have started to write many posts this week.

The first one was about the great weekend I had, just Martha and me, alone for the whole weekend. It was going to be a love story about transitions and cleaning out the garage.

Then there was the one about some medical decisions I have to make and how difficult it can be when the decisions affect others in your life.

That got sidetracked when therapy hit a raw nerve and I started to write a rant on how much therapy hurts.

But they all became meaningless when I got a call Monday night telling me that a close friend had died in a car accident. Although it wasn’t an accident. She was killed by a drunk driver. And I wanted to write an angry post about the impact of DWI and how many families I know that have been torn apart by this senseless, selfish act.

But I have just returned from a funeral and sitting Shiva for a friend. A single mom with two beautiful daughters. And I am having trouble finding any words for anything.